By Karen Whiting
My daughter Rebecca remarked, “My earliest memories all center around family devotions. They were my favorite times.” Devotions became the heart of our family life. Through the years I realized family devotions provide many hidden benefits.
Devotions build cognitive and communication skills. Reading the Bible enriches vocabulary and builds reading comprehension. Discussions help children think analytically. They learn to share ideas.
Family bonds grow strong with devotions. When we faced the devastation of Hurricane Andrew and $99,000 in damages, my children faced it with courage. We studied Nehemiah as we rebuilt, which covers both rebuilding the wall and the hearts of the people, and that bridged our needs too.
How we actually do devotions and keep going? There’s no set format but generally you’ll share scripture or a passage and discuss it. It’s more fun with hands-on fun added. We used a lot of materials and developed our own. When something didn’t work, we changed direction.
During our children’s elementary years, we included drama, science experiments, games and cooking. The object lesson format worked well. We invested in good materials.
As the children hit teen years, they wanted to dig deeper with adult studies on topics relevant to their lives. We used concordances, a biblical cyclopedic index and other resource materials. We responded to their needs.
What can you do? Here are some tips to make devotions work for your family.
- Buy a family devotional, journals and appropriate Bibles for each child.
- Be enthusiastic. Make a treasure hunt to let children find the new materials.
- Set some ground rules, like no phones or technology during devotions.
- Schedule time. Start slow, with 15 minutes twice a week and expand that when your family finds what works well.
- Use an incentive if needed. We stated, “Since God’s word is sweeter than honey, we can’t have dessert if we don’t have time for the best sweets.”
- Involve your children. Praise children for contributing. Include activities that appeal to each child, such as drama for the outgoing child, maps for the quiet thinker, and hands on fun for the kinesthetic learner. If a child states something incorrectly, don’t scold. Ask them to read the scripture out loud and talk about what it really means.
- Bridge time between devotions. So, if you studied Bible people who cooperated, plan a family project that takes cooperation and chat about how you’re doing something related to what you studied.
- Capture the memories with some photos or a family spiritual scrapbook. Post the photos in your home to show you value devotions.
- When things don’t work, discuss what can be changed or improved.
- Remember that children really want their parents to invest time in them and they will respond when you make sure the devotions are positive times and not lectures.
- Pray for God’s Holy Spirit to guide you.
- Be consistent.
I pray that you’ll find family devotions valuable.
About Karen Whiting
Karen Whiting is an international speaker, former television host and award-winning author of 25 books for women, children, military and families. She’s also a mom of five (including two rocket scientists) and a grandmother. She writes to help families thrive. She has written more than 700 articles for more than 60 publications. Karen writes for Leading Hearts, The Kid’s Ark, a radio network. Awards include the Christian Retailing 2014 Best Award, children’s nonfiction (The One Year My Princess Devotions) and the Military Writer’s Society of America Gold Medal (Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front).